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Through the looking glass, darkly

Challenge your sense of what vision is in this new social enterprise set up by the School of Humanities


Dialogue in the Dark (DiD) in Singapore is the world’s first large-scale social enterprise to be autonomously helmed
by students.

Housed in NP, the enterprise challenged students from the School of Humanities (HMS) to manage administrative duties, interact with the public and  manage 14 visually impaired guides – all on a professional level.

Most of the students are from the Business & Social Enterprise (BZSE) course.

“We designed Dialogue in the Dark for students to run as we wanted this social enterprise movement to be championed by the young people themselves. It is such an innovative platform for students to think of creative ideas,” says Ms Choo-Yeo Cheh Hoon, Director of HMS.

During the one-hour tour, visitors to DiD walk through themed rooms in the complete absence of light. They are therefore compelled to trust and rely on their guides, hence facilitating positive interaction.

Shine Koh, 19, a final-year BZSE student, says, “It was so dark that there was no difference between opening and closing your eyes. I almost suffered a panic attack in the first few minutes.”

Says Mr Glen Ng, project manager of DiD, “There was no manual of any sort for us. We had to rely a lot on trial and error, and from there, implement a flexible system that we could tweak along the way.”

Apart from serving as a learning platform, DiD has also provided members of the local blind community with stable jobs.

This business model helps to integrate the visually impaired in the working world, and allows HMS students to learn to interact
with people with special needs.

This unique management system has garnered the full approval of Dr Andreas Heinecke, 40, founder of DiD.

“I think [that] the combination of an employment programme to have an occasion in social learning is a wonderful concept. I hope we can bring it to other places in the world as well,” says Dr Heinecke at the official launch of DiD in April.

Dr Heinecke first talked about DiD in Singapore to Mr Jack Sim, founder of the World Toilet Organisation. Mr Sim then approached the NP Principal, Mr Chia Mia Chiang, to consider hosting a permanent exhibition on campus.

Mr Chia was convinced that “as a training facility, Dialogue in the Dark [will be able to] inject a fresh and enriching perspective to the learning dimension” for HMS students, and gave the green light to the idea.

Since its soft launch in October last year, DiD has touched the lives of more than 2,500 primary and secondary school students, as well as more than 4,000 members of the public.

“Our students have benefitted tremendously from [DiD] and NP is proud to share this thought-provoking experience with everybody,” says Mr Chia.

Key notes for Dialogue in the Dark:

1) Wear a unique material like silk or denim so that you can easily be identified by touch.

2) The way you perceive smells will be very different. You will be blown away by your newfound ability to accurately locate the relative positions of people and objects by their scent.

3) Be prepared for the possible onset of claustrophobia. Practise deep breathing exercises and alert your guide if you require any assistance.

4) You will be touched. Groping, accidental or otherwise, may also occur. If you have any personal space and/or touching issues, you may want to reconsider.

5) Come dressed in sensible shoes and clothes, as the tour spans an entire hour and involves plenty of walking across different terrains.


Who is the founder of Dialogue in the Dark? Email your answer to contest.nptribune@gmail.com and stand a chance to win a pair of tickets to the exhibition! Contest ends Aug 1.

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